Anglican vicar smeared by association
Go to foot of posting for information on meeting with Reverend Stephen Sizer and others including JfJfP’s treasurer Vivien Lichtenstein
By Marcus Dysch, Jewish Chronicle
A Church of England vicar has been backed by his diocesan bishop after promoting a website which supports Holocaust denial and warns of a Zionist conspiracy controlling the world.
Reverend Stephen Sizer received the support of the Bishop of Guildford, the Right Reverend Christopher Hill, a former chaplain to the Queen, following calls for him to be suspended for linking to the site.
The bishop said Rev Sizer “repudiates antisemitism and Holocaust denial” and had “only intended” to draw his followers’ attention to a specific article about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Rev Sizer used his Facebook profile to link to the piece on American website The Ugly Truth, a site which claims to highlight “Zionism, Jewish extremism and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today”.
It runs cartoons in celebration of Holocaust deniers, blames Israel for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and supports Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambition.
Rev Sizer, senior pastor of the Anglican Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, is a passionate anti-Israel activist who regularly uses his Facebook page to promote anti-Zionist articles and websites to his nearly 900 followers.
He has written two books on the “manifestation” of Christian Zionism, blaming Christian Zionists for prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both books were praised by Bishop Hill.
Another Church of England vicar, Reverend Nick Howard, encouraged Bishop Hill to suspend Rev Sizer for promoting The Ugly Truth. The bishop, suggesting that Rev Sizer might have posted the link accidentally, responded by saying he could see nothing in Rev Sizer’s actions “which would merit disciplinary matters, not least because differing political opinions are definitely exempted from disciplinary proceedings in the Church of England”. (In fact, the Bishop of Willesden was suspended in 2010 after using his Facebook page to make inappropriate remarks about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.)
Rev Howard said: “If Rev Hill withdrew his support it would be extremely difficult for Stephen Sizer to carry on. But as long as his diocesan bishop is sticking by him his position is secure. It is astonishing that he is still in his job. Posting that link shows he is not just an opponent of Israel but an opponent of Jewish people. It’s a game-changer.”
But a senior diocese official said Rev Howard was “mischief-making” and “building up guilt by implication”. He said the diocese viewed the criticism of Rev Sizer as a “form of political campaign” against him.
In a joint statement, Bishop Hill and the Diocese of Guildford said: “Rev Stephen Sizer has made it clear on many occasions that he repudiates racism, antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust. His intention was only to draw the attention of his Facebook followers to a specific article.”
Rev Sizer removed the link on Wednesday, after JC inquiries.
Simon McIlwaine of Anglican Friends of Israel said: “Rev Sizer must be properly and independently investigated by an ecclesiastical court. We cannot consider the apparent brush-off by the Bishop of Guildford to be a remotely satisfactory response.
“The allegations against Rev Sizer, if substantiated, are potentially extremely damaging to Jewish-Christian relations and undermine the good work of church leaders to atone for historical institutional antisemitism.”
Lambeth Palace confirmed it had received “correspondence” about Rev Sizer’s conduct, but said no official complaints had been made against him. A spokeswoman said it was “a matter for the Diocese of Guildford”.
By Nick Howard, Jewish Chronicle
In the past fortnight the police and the FA have convinced many that they are facing up to racism with the seriousness it deserves. Yet at the same time the Church of England has given the opposite impression.
In October Reverend Stephen Sizer posted a link on his Facebook page to an antisemitic site called “The Ugly Truth” which featured images of blood-sucking Jewish vampires and Nazi-style caricatures of Jewish men. Three months later, Rev Sizer took down the link.
The Diocese of Guildford claimed, on behalf of Bishop Christopher Hill – Rev Sizer’s local bishop – that the reverend withdrew the link “when the nature of other articles on that site was drawn to his attention”. The particular article that he’d recommended hadn’t itself been antisemitic, so a potentially damaging “racist vicar” story became one of a “naïve vicar”. But the bishop’s statement was untrue.
I emailed Bishop Hill on November 16, expressing my concern, and pointing out that in 2010 a bishop was suspended for inappropriate use of Facebook (posting unpleasant remarks about the royal wedding). Bishop Hill replied that week, promising to speak to Rev Sizer “about his use of Facebook”. But six weeks passed before the link was removed. It was only taken down then because the JC was looking into the story.
The Church comes out looking blithely unconcerned about racism. Perhaps Bishop Hill forgot to inform Rev Sizer that his Facebook page was a portal to a Jew-hating website, showing how little he cares about antisemitism. Perhaps he did inform Rev Sizer, but was ignored, in which case the reverend would be confirmed as an antisemite and the bishop would again show himself to be apathetic about racism.
Rev Sizer has a long track record of arguably antisemitic behaviour, so the Church could hardly have been encouraged to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s described IDF members as “Herod’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today” (King Herod ordered his troops to kill all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem, in the hope of murdering Christ). He’s promoted boycotts of McDonalds, Coca-Cola, L’Oréal and Nestlé on the basis that they “channel their profits to the Zionist agenda”. He has alleged Israeli complicity in 9/11, and argued that Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians mean “the Holocaust has been perpetuated over the past 40 or 50 years”. His associates include Palestinian activist Raed Salah; Zahra Mostafavi, the Ayatollah Khomeini’s daughter; and Israel Shamir, who warns of “Jewish mind control on a world scale”.
The MacPherson report into Stephen Lawrence’s death defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation” regarding “colour, culture, or ethnic origin”. The Diocese of Guildford has fallen foul of that.
It’s worth noting the Church’s utterly unethical handling of the media. To stifle a negative story, the Diocese of Guildford issued a deliberately misleading statement. Even if the bishop forgot to speak to Rev Sizer in November, he was certainly informed about the matter on December 27, when an article about it was posted on the blog “Harry’s Place”. Yet Sizer only removed the link a week later, under duress. Not only does this episode raise the question of why the Church wants to protect a man like Rev Sizer, it raises the issue of how the Diocese of Guildford can justify intentionally misleading the media.
One would hope that the Church would set a moral example to organisations like the Met and the FA. Sadly, it seems it’s the other way round.
Nick Howard works as a writer and public speaker. He is an ordained Anglican
Reverend Stephen Sizer, Letter, Jewish Chronicle
In the past 18 months, the blogger Seismic Shock (Joseph Weissman) has associated me with Holocaust deniers, white supremacists, antisemites, Islamists, terrorists, suicide bombers and the 7.7 bombers.
I respect Judaism, repudiate antisemitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. I want to see the Arab-Israeli conflict resolved peacefully and diplomatically with a secure Israel and viable independent Palestine – hardly controversial, except in some Zionist circles. I have written a couple of books on Christian Zionism and US fundamentalism, which I regard as a threat to the security of Israel as well as to Palestine.
The police initially consulted me for advice (not the other way round) on extremist groups on the edge of the Christian community (Anti-Zionist pastor attacks ‘wicked’ blog, January 29). On their advice I approached the local police to investigate whether the articles posted on the SS blog constituted harassment and incitement to religious hatred.
I receive anonymous phone calls and nasty emails on a regular basis. In the last year, we have had a violent break-in, computer and cameras stolen, my car has been vandalised and more recently broken into and possessions stolen.
I understand that police investigations led to the identification of the individual. Apparently he agreed to remove certain material and apologised. More than a year ago, I offered to meet and talk through our differences. That offer remains open.
(Revd Dr) Stephen Sizer
Christ Church Vicarage, Virginia Water
Dialogue Project Annual Full-day Meeting
Dialogue Project’s annual full-day meeting, Stanlaw Abbey, Dover Drive, Ellesmere Port, CH65 9BF
Wednesday 8th February 2012 9.30 am – 4.00 pm.
Organised by Healthy Inclusion: Promoting dialogue between people from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions
Contact: 0151 355 4008 / email@example.com
International Women’s Peace Service
Life in Palestine
Jews for Justice for Palestinians
1. Holocaust education – uses and abuses
2. To criticise Israel is not anti-Semitic
Senior pastor, Christ Church, Virginia Water,
Due to the popularity of the speakers, numbers will be needed prior to the meeting for security and catering purposes
FOR SECURITY REASONS, PLEASE BRING PHOTOGRAPHIC ID FOR REGISTRATION
In order to ensure freedom of speech (articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) there will be zero tolerance of heckling or bad behaviour at this event.
A voluntary donation of £10.00 would be appreciated to help cover the expenses of this event.